There’s an interesting post @ Desiring God – America’s Debt to John Calvin. Piper writes some interesting thoughts here regarding Calvin’s influence on American culture and democracy as a whole, based on lectures by Abraham Kuyper (Lectures on Calvinism). Kuyper was a Dutch politician, journalist, statesman and superb theologian who went on to found the Anti-Revolutionary Party and was prime minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905. Kuyper also started the Free University of Amsterdam. Kuyper is a heavyweight within the Reformed tradition.
So what questions do Piper ask that Kuyper answered back in the 19th century?
Piper: John Calvin and Martin Luther were the twin pillars of the Protestant Reformation. Why do fewer people speak of Luther’s culture-shaping impact on America, but for centuries Calvin has been seen in this light?
Kuyper: Luther’s starting-point was the . . . principle of justifying faith; while Calvin’s . . . lay in the general cosmological principle of the sovereignty of God. . . . [Hence] Lutheranism restricted itself to an exclusively ecclesiastical and theological character, while Calvinism put its impress in and outside the Church upon every department of human life.
Perhaps this is why Calvin has been so amazingly influential upon so many areas of culture and theology! His theology was specifically broader than just “the church” and found application universally in every sphere of life. The sovereignty of God doesn’t address simply ecclesiastical issues but addresses every area of creation! Pink addresses this well in The Sovereignty of God.
And while the concept of the sovereignty of God was not “new” or “novel” by any means (cf. Augustine, and the apostle Paul for that matter), some of the concepts that Calvin introduced were! For example – the foundational ideas for a “work ethic.” Again, Piper’s thoughts are helpful,
“For example, Calvin’s doctrine of “vocation” follows from the fact that every person, great and small, lives “in the Divine Presence.” God’s sovereign purposes govern the simplest occupation. He attends to everyone’s work. This yielded the Protestant work ethic. Huge benefits flow from a cultural shift in which all work is done earnestly and honestly with an eye to God.”
Wow. Consider how influential this was during the formation of our country, where many of the founding father’s had an aim to please God in all of their lives versus “just Sunday mornings.” Calvin’s influence is interesting.